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Little Bets: How breakthrough ideas emerge from small discoveries

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  1,849 Ratings  ·  159 Reviews
How can errors produce perfection?

How can failure fuel ambition?

How can confusion enhance creativity?

The answer: little bets.

The little bets approach is about using negativity to positive effect. If your plans fall apart, refine them; if you don't know where best to begin, just begin somewhere. Every decision is a risk: take a chance and see what happens.

In Little Bets, be
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 5th 2011 by Random House Business (first published April 5th 2011)
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Oct 17, 2015 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was interesting and entertaining. I liked the approach of the book and the tons of examples.
Jun 30, 2011 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about using small failures to define the path to large successes.

It's OK to feel around in the dark with the only plan to move forward once the path becomes clear. This is not a passive strategy by any means; but it respects that you can't plot a straight course from where you are to where you want to be, and that this is acceptable.

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it." -- Alan Kay, technologist & inventor

I had an epiphany while reading it; I left a job of 18 yea
Feb 25, 2013 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book centers around the idea that innovations can be derived through giant leaps and small iterations, but that it is the small bets that are in reach for most of us. Peter starts by outlining the importance of a growth versus fixed mindset; to recognize that intelligence can be developed and to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, learn from criticism and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. Peter notes that praising ability alone reduces persistence, whil ...more
Sep 04, 2011 Taka rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Cool concept, not very detailed--

The book's concepts are all cool and interesting.

The book combines the findings of Carow Dweck (fixed vs. growth mindsets), Eric von Hippel (active users and innovation), Csikszentmihalyi (problem finders vs. problem solvers), Richard Wiseman (being open to experiences increases your luck), and other research and innovations in psychology, economics, and business.

The concept of little bets is basically this: creative things emerge from random, non-linear, unpredi
Dec 06, 2011 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some take-aways that I appreciated:
- Ask people what they think before you have a professional looking model. Create something out of cardboard or duct tape (everyone's favorite). People feel more free to make recommendations or give honest input when they see it's a work in progress.

- When people provide feedback, there's no penalty. Create an atmosphere where it's okay to disagree. Humor is key. Too bad I'm not funny.

- Success hides problems. (This makes a lot of sense to me)

- When going s
Feb 16, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leadership
Good book. I like the premise and reminder of looking for small connections that lead to innovation....and practicing in small arenas where you can learn from your mistakes quickly in order to move on and grow and improve. There are some great references and stories and examples of innovators who were willing to learn. I like the tie to anthropology and social science and how people use their diverse experiences to make connections and create something new, as well as the examples of people talk ...more
Jan 17, 2012 corina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book collects a lot of design thinking principles together under the umbrella of "little bets," i.e. prototyping and the "fail early and often" idea. There are basically just a few case studies that get brought up repeatedly (Pixar, The Sketches of Frank Gehry, Chris Rock) but a smattering of interesting other research comes up too. Like how lucky people actually just are more open-minded/observant. So it's Malcolm Gladwell -esque but the fact that I found myself most skimming is a sign tha ...more
Jan 31, 2012 Philippe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: systems-thinking
Little bets is an accessible and well-written book that straddles the fuzzy boundaries between creativity research, corporate innovation, and design thinking. Although Sims' writerly approach doesn't perceptly differ from many others in this crowded segment (à la Gladwell) there is something affectionately intelligent in his tone of voice that made me want to read on. Also in terms of subject matter, the book delivers few, if any, really novel insights. But still, I found Sims' plea for a cultur ...more
Aug 23, 2012 Evan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are the kind who actively seeks out advice on how to succeed, you won't be surprised at the advice Peter Sims has given. I most certainly was delighted by how having the mindset is so vital in succeeding in your endeavors.

In this book, there are a few mindsets, namely
1) Making little bets so that you can make big bets
2) Cultivating a growth mindset - To deal with failure / obstacles
3) Being proactive - Proactively failing so that you can learn faster
4) Knowing how to play - To make each
Nov 03, 2014 BLACK CAT rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fixed vs. growth mindset (Carol Dweck): develop growth mindset.
Embrace failure and learn from it.
Don't build a whole final solution, iterate through small experiments (bets) and see what works.
Minimum viable product: prototyping, fail fast/fail forward, learn, pivot...
Be a curious person and question everything to learn more. Meet new and different people, diversity will bring creativity.
Small Wins: signs that you are on the right track.

Patrik Hallberg
Oct 28, 2012 Patrik Hallberg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Was blown away by this little book. It starts with talking about Chris Rock, Brin & Page, Bezos and Beethoven and how they do things to discover what they should do. At the core little bets is an experimental approach where you take actions to discover, test and develop ideas that are achievable and affordable. The book then takes of with the section about static vs growth mindset. As a parent I found this section very valuable and I had a long discussion around this with my son Bill. Then c ...more
Nov 22, 2012 Pete rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, business
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joe Donatelli
Jan 12, 2013 Joe Donatelli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s a wonderful book. I highly recommend it to anyone who is curious about why some people, businesses and ideas succeed and others don’t. Sims’ theory is that taking small, methodical steps, failing often, embracing failure and then making necessary corrections has allowed successful individuals and organizations to reap unintended windfalls and achieve extroardinary outcomes.

One of the many examples Sims uses throughout the book is Chris Rock. His stand-up specials are sharp, Sims writes, bec
Feb 13, 2013 Neil rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finally read another book. I'm really proud of myself. It only took a month to get through 160 pages.

Anyways, though, this book's fine. I like the attitude of books like this, though the content never really set me on fire -- this guy seems to have interviewed like 6 subjects and just reintroduces them constantly, especially Pixar. (Every chapter, each of which teaches a supposedly different lesson, will have a moment like "....FOR INSTANCE AT PIXAR" or "...REMEMBER AT PIXAR WHEN..."). The mes
Clif Hostetler
The "little bets" referenced by the book's title are low-risk actions taken to discover, develop, and test an idea that represent a potentially better way to do something. Numerous low-risk trials can allow appropriate mid-step adjustments and changes that can improve the prospects of success. Failures that occur along the way can be accepted as positive feedback that point toward a change in direction or perhaps ending the proposed venture before large financial losses are experienced.

There's r
Guillem Tosca díaz
I think the message in this book is amazing. The message can be summed-up as follows:

We tend to be over-analytical when creating new things. That is we want to craft a perfect blueprint and then start making that blueprint a reality. The author advocates that it is better to plan-as-we-go. That is, it is more effective to start working on a project and improve it repeatedly, than it is to try to have it all planed at the start.

That strongly resonates with my experience as a student. I often fo
Marc Brackett
Jun 01, 2013 Marc Brackett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating little book. It pulls from numerous studies, books, and real life examples to make a most convincing case.

Overlooked I think were the differences between self identified lucky and unlucky people. The study had the two groups count the number of pictures in a newspaper. It took the unlucky group on average 2 minutes while the lucky group finished the task in seconds. What could possibly explain the difference in performance? Turns out on page two which had a picture that t
Feb 10, 2014 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not really a great book, but a SHORT book with a lot of good ideas. The shortness gives it the extra star, because it is definitely worth the small investment of time it asks.

The central idea of Peter Sims' book is that perfectionism and a need to proceed with a well-defined plan hold many of us back from achieving what we could and from unleashing our creativity. Sims argues that creativity, in keeping with a "design thinking" approach, requires us to ACT in order to discover the solution we ar
Jock Mcclees
May 09, 2014 Jock Mcclees rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a good book. Only downside was that the examples came from so few companies/individuals. It makes the point that things are changing so quickly that taking a long time to design, create and build a new product or service can mean it is outdated when it is complete. If you make a series of small bets about how it should work, you can fail a lot and it won't kill you, but more importantly, you get feedback more quickly and can end up with a better product more quickly and that fits users' n ...more
Gregg Bell
Not much here. I heard about this book while listening to an audio book in my car. The title and the short description were intriguing to me and so I bought the book. Well, the book's not bad. It's a quick and easy read, but there's not much substance to it.

If you haven't heard or read or seen movies or... (fill in the blank) enough about Steve Jobs you might like this book. However, Steve Jobs took ENORMOUS bets at Pixar, spending countless millions for a minute or two animated video (that even
Aug 23, 2014 Mitch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're interested in innovation, testing and thinking outside the box, you need to read this book. After finishing, I actually bought one for every person at Go Overseas. It tells the story of how best to innovate: Not just creating a product and hoping people like it, but making "little bets" along the way. Start small, test, and learn from your users. The book does a great job of weaving in real life stories from individuals like Chris Rock and Seinfeld, telling the story of how they come u ...more
J.F. Penn
Sep 13, 2014 J.F. Penn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
Interesting for creatives in dealing with experimentation, failure and improving creativity. Good anecdotal examples.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims was chosen by Soundview Executive Book Summaries as one of the Top 30 Business Books of 2014.


Rather than starting with a big idea or planning a whole project before you begin, many successful people and businesses make a methodical series of little bets. Little bets are low risk actions taken to test an idea. These little bets help determine direction while providing critical information from a n
Jan 27, 2015 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book which delves into many contexts in which people can exercise many concepts, including the concept of little bets. Yet it’s about much more than little bets. I began seeing this book more as a great overview of a powerful collection of concepts that will help people who are, or want to be, contributors to the world, while enjoying life.

There is some repetition of the little bets concepts. Yet to me, these were quite valuable because they paint a better picture of the div
John Britto
Sep 25, 2015 John Britto rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Little Bets" is good motivational book by Peter Sims. Though out this book Peter talks about how the great innovators/successors have reached that level is that they dreamt of the success at initial step itself or they started with small idea and that payed off and emerged as great thing. Entirely this was like an argument to achieve innovation in a particular way. There are so many examples that authors brings to user's consciousness like growth of Pixar, comedian Chris Rock, architect Frank G ...more
Leif Denti
It's not bad, only that it could be much better. Two stars means "OK". My main issue is that the concept "Little bets" is never explained. Sure, the author uses the words "little" and "bets" all the time, but always in different contexts and situations. It's an Oprah giveaway. "Little bets" for you! And "Little bets" for you! "Little bets" for everyone! Is "Little bets"...

* To test out different ideas and hope that one of them succeed? Like Chris Rock?
* To strive to incrementally become better a
I got to this book because of a long list of reads someone published for storytellers, but I found out it is more material for business entrepreneurs -though, storytellers draw great things from any kind of read, and that's my point- and I found it quite interesting and enlightening. Currently there is a lot of literature on creativity, how to make your ideas and projects a real thing and all kinds of manuals for creative people. Most of them are full of formulas that may or may not work... this ...more
(3.0) Note: do not audiobook this because of the reader.
Adam R
Pretty solid book. I was brought to read it by way of So good they can't ignore you by Cal Newport (Great book). Although I thought the book had a lot of interesting ideas, it's evidence seemed anecdotal. I know with books of these nature that's a common problem and I'm not saying I need hard statistics but I think more variety in case studies (as opposed to championing Pixar over and over) would have made a better book. It like I was reading Creativity Inc, written three years earlier. A lot of ...more
Sep 26, 2016 Jan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid and well-documented, but also repetitive and curiously unsinspirng
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FULL Creative Lib...: Little Bets 2 7 Mar 06, 2014 11:14AM  
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  • Power: Why Some People Have it and Others Don't
  • Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others
  • The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion
  • The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators
  • Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements
  • The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work
  • Universal Traveler
  • Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders
  • Design Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean
  • Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds
  • Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In
  • Why Not?: How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big And Small
  • The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us about Innovation
  • Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques
  • Weird Ideas That Work: How to Build a Creative Company
  • What the Most Successful People Do at Work: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Career
  • The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?

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“The key is to take a larger project or goal and break it down into smaller problems to be solved, constraining the scope of work to solving a key problem, and then another key problem.
This strategy, of breaking a project down into discrete, relatively small problems to be resolved, is what Bing Gordon, a cofounder and the former chief creative officer of the video game company Electronic Arts, calls smallifying. Now a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, Gordon has deep experience leading and working with software development teams. He’s also currently on the board of directors of Amazon and Zynga. At Electronic Arts, Gordon found that when software teams worked on longer-term projects, they were inefficient and took unnecessary paths. However, when job tasks were broken down into particular problems to be solved, which were manageable and could be tackled within one or two weeks, developers were more creative and effective.”
“At the beginning of any new idea, the possibilities can seem infinite, and that wide-open landscape of opportunity can become a prison of anxiety and self-doubt. This is a key reason why failing fast with low-risk prototypes the way Chris Rock does is so helpful: If we haven’t invested much in developing an idea, emotionally or in terms of time or resources, then we are more likely to be able to focus on what we can learn from that effort than on what we’ve lost in making it. Prototyping is one of the most effective ways to both jump-start our thinking and to guide, inspire, and discipline an experimental approach.” 0 likes
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